Controlling Variables

By Doug Aaberg • June 27th, 2019
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There are literally hundreds of variables that can be set in both AutoCAD® and IntelliCAD®. Depending on what tasks you are performing, the effect of each variable and their inherent settings can range from practically unnoticeable to catastrophic. Most are just simply annoying. I could spend the rest of my career addressing each variable that exists (knowing that more may be created with each new release), but instead, I will focus on a few that I have found to be a common disruption for Carlson users.

Linetype Scale
There are three main variables that affect the Linetype Scale:

LTSCALE – sets the overall scale for the drawing
This variable affects any linteype that exists in the drawing and controls the spacing and size of the dashes, dots or characters that are part of that linetype.

MSLTSCALE – is a toggle (off/on or 0/1) that sets model space to follow the LTSCALE value

PSLTSCALE – is a toggle (off/on or 0/1) that sets paper space to follow the LTSCALE value

Setting the LTSCALE can be done in the Drawing Setup dialog box.

Note that if the Line Type Scaler is set to 1, the LTSCALE will match the drawing scale.

All of that seems simple enough but the complication is that the use of these variables is completely dependent on the preference of the user.

Example: If the LTSCALE is set to match the drawing scale, i.e. 20, and the MSLTSCALE and PSLTSCALE are off, the appearance of a linetype will be different when in model space than when in paper space. This is a common frustration for users. They feel they have to work in model space with all linetypes appearing to be incorrect so that when printing from paper space, they will appear correct on the final plan. To remedy that situation, they merely need to set both the MSLTSCALE and PSLTSCALE to on, or a value of 1.

To complicate this further, many users prefer to use the drawing Annotation Scale to control both annotative text height and linetypes. The variable that controls the annotation scale is CANNOSCALE. To utilize this variable most efficiently, set the LTSCALE to a value of 1, ensure both the MSLTSCALE and PSLTSCALE are on, and set the CANNOSCALE to the desired plot scale such as 1” = 20’.

When using this option, the user must set the Carlson Drawing Setup LTSCALE to a value of 1 manually.

The default for the Carlson setup is to set the LTSCALE to match the drawing scale leaving the CANNOSCALE variable as 1:1. That way the drawing setup will control the linetype scale completely.

A more convenient method of access the CANNOSCALE variable is shown below under Annotative Text.

Dimscale and Dimensioning
There are probably more variables to control dimensioning than any other aspect in CAD. The main variable for controlling dimensions, though, is simply the DIMSCALE variable. The value for this variable is typically set to match the drawing scale. It is used to scale the text and leader sizes for dimensioning.

The settings for dimensions are controlled through the command DIMSTYLE.

Within the Dimstyle dialog box, there is a plethora of variables that are used to control virtually every aspect of a dimension imaginable. However, getting these set exactly the way you want can sometimes be a lesson in frustration.

Carlson has an abbreviated method of performing simple dimensioning in the Survey Text command under the Annotation menu.

These settings essential override the Dimstyle variables and simplify the process of dimensioning, specifically, structure offsets to a property line. In this dialog box, you can set the size of the text, define the type of arrows, set the layer for the dimensions, and even add alternate units. After making all of the settings you can use the command Offset Dimensions:

The added feature to this command is that it automatically sets an Endpoint Osnap followed by a Perpendicular Osnap with appropriate prompts and the command line. It is a favorite of mine.

Insertion Units
The variables that affect inserting blocks are those that can cause erroneous results. The three variables that control inserting a block into a drawing are:

The concept behind these settings is to be able to automatically scale a drawing (block) that was created using different units. For example if an architect sends an engineer or surveyor a drawing that was created using architectural units (inches), it would be 12 times too large for a drawing that is set to decimal (feet). If the source and target units are set correctly, the block will automatically insert at the correct scale. The problem occurs when these variables are set unknowingly or incorrectly. I’ve experienced this myself.

You can also access control of the INSUNIT variables through different dialog boxes in both AutoCAD and IntelliCAD.

Having the insertion units set to Unitless or Undefined, is a safe way to proceed.

Point Nodes
There are two variables that control the display of Nodes contained in a drawing, PDMODE and PDSIZE. By default, Carlson sets a Node (or Point) when it draws points from a coordinate file. Many users prefer to have a symbol inserted underneath each node for visibility:

The “X” symbol you see above is actually a block inserted over the top of the point. By default, the node itself is the entity that is linked to the coordinate file, not the symbol. Symbols are typically inserted on each point and are utilized heavily in Carlson’s Field to Finish program. The “X” symbol above actually has four end points so care needs to be taken when measuring distances and using an Osnap to select the point. You can accidentally grab an endpoint of the X instead of the Node causing you to get erroneous results. Some users prefer to not have a symbol on every point, but instead, display the node only. You can set the type of node and size using the two above variables, PDMODE and PDSIZE. An easier way to access these settings is to use the Point Style dialog box found in the Carlson Settings Menu.

When selected, you can control both the look and size of the nodes displayed in the drawing.

Annotative Text
Annotative text seems to be one of those features that people either love or hate. The concept behind annotative text is if you change drawing scales, all text will automatically alter its size relative to that new scale. For example if you create a drawing at 1”=20’ and later modify it to 1”=40’, all annotative text will double in size. This is especially useful when creating multiple viewports at different scales. The variable CANNOSCALE controls the scale for the annotative text. It is also possible and more convenient to access this setting by clicking on the Annotation Scale icon found on the lower right part of the drawing editor, provided it is displayed.

When using Annotative Text, it is most productive to create text styles and choose the Annotative Text option:

Enter the text height as the printed Paper Text Height as opposed to a height relative to the drawing scale. In other words, if you want text to print out as 0.10 in height, you simply enter that as the height. When not using Annotative text, you need to multiply the desired printed text height times the drawing scale. As in: a height of 0.10 for a 1”=20’ scale drawing would require a text height of 2 (.01 x 20 = 2.0).

Text Editor
The TEXTED variable sets the characteristics of the text editor dialog box. Some users have found that during a recent upgrade, they no longer see the same display and options when double clicking on a piece of text or using the Text Edit command. These variables vary slightly between AutoCAD and IntelliCAD but essentially function the same way. The variables range from 0 to 2 in AutoCAD and 0 to 4 in IntelliCAD and can be set at the command line.

Alternate Fonts
One of the more annoying situations occurs when receiving a drawing from another firm and the fonts they are using are not contained in your own system. When opening such a drawing, you will see an error message indicating that there are one or more missing SHX files:

This happens because the font being used is actually an external SHX file that you do not have access to. If you choose the option to Ignore Missing Fonts, the program will substitute an existing font for those that are missing. To control which font to use during this operation, use the variable FONTALT. The default is likely to be Simplex or a similar type font.

Angle Units
The AUNITS variable is part of the Units settings and controls the display of the angular units.

Carlson Configuration
Carlson builds in an easy way to set many of the necessary variables upon starting each drawing. The options for each are contained in the General Settings of the Carlson Configure dialog box:

Most of these settings are default settings so there is a good chance things have been working fine for you and you did not even realize that these variables were being set. If, however, you would like to change them, you can change settings in the General Configuration and/or set each desired variable in your startup template file (DWT) ensuring that each new drawing created will be set the way you want it.


Let’s Grow Together.

Douglas L. Aaberg, PLS
Survey Product Manager

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